July 13, 2021

33 rom-coms that are actually funny

These books will make you swoon and laugh—guaranteed.

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A cozy small town. A quaint Main Street lined with quirky family-owned shops. Community events—farmers markets, pumpkin carving contests, Christmas tree lightings—attended by everyone. A plucky, adorable heroine finds love with the gorgeous guy who drove her crazy, right up until their nonstop sparring turned into love.

We all know the formulas. Like receiving a gift-wrapped bicycle, the joy doesn’t come from wondering, “Whatever could this be?” but rather from the instant recognition that you’ve gotten exactly what you want. Sweetness? Check. Warm fuzzies? Check. Happily ever after? Checkmate.

As Seen on TV

In Meredith Schorr’s debut, As Seen on TV, Adina Gellar has let made-for-TV movies convince her that everything wrong with her big-city life could be cured by a small-town romance. Of course she hasn’t found love in superficial, fast-paced New York City. What she needs is a down-home everyman who will offer her steadiness and commitment—something she craves both personally and professionally.

In a last-ditch effort to kick-start her freelance journalism career, Adina pitches a story about Pleasant Hollow, a nearby small town about to be forever changed by the addition of a huge housing tower. She anticipates being welcomed to Pleasant Hollow by a grandmotherly bed-and-breakfast owner, befriended by a spunky waitress and charmed by a small-town Romeo, all of whom will confirm that the interlopers are ruining the character of their adorable town. Instead, the B&B owner is curt, the waitress is impatient, the town is bleak and no one cares about the development or Adina . . . except for the tower’s project manager, Finn Adams. Despite being absolutely gorgeous, city boy Finn’s lack of interest in a picture-perfect HEA is a red flag for Adina.

Nevertheless, Adina remains plucky to the max and continues trying to fit everyone else into the parts she wants them to play. The relentlessness of her search for quaintness and charm is admirable, if at times exhausting, while her struggle to find a simple, straightforward romance in a way-too-complicated world is relatable. Schorr provides an interesting foil for Adina in Finn, who encourages and frustrates her in equal measure as he helps her realize that love doesn’t have to be neat and tidy to be right and real.

★ Nora Goes Off Script

Nora Hamilton, of Annabel Monaghan’s Nora Goes Off Script, lives on the other side of a romance fixation—not as the addict but as the dealer, churning out scripts of sweet, interchangeable stories for the Romance Channel. But when her spoiled wastrel of a husband leaves her and their two kids, and she realizes she’s secretly, guiltily glad to see him go, she ends up pouring her own story into a new screenplay.

That screenplay gets turned into a serious Hollywood movie, starring Hollywood’s most gorgeous star, Leo Vance, who comes to Nora’s house to film on location and then . . . doesn’t leave. Leo has looks, talent, fame, fortune and a smolder that could melt glass. But after a recent personal loss, he’s floundering to figure out who he is, and Nora’s historic home in a low-key small town seems like the right place to find his footing. Will love ensue? Romance readers know it will, but their mutual feelings manage to catch both Nora and Leo totally off guard.

The plot—big-city hotshot finding his real self with help from a small-town sweetheart—may be a classic formula, but not a single thing in Nora Goes Off Script comes across as predictable. The characters seem to genuinely discover their story as it unfolds, always digging for something authentic and rejecting stereotypes (at least, the ones that Monaghan doesn’t gently lampoon before employing). Nora and Leo’s struggles are honest and poignant, Nora’s children are genuine and nuanced characters who are never treacly or smarter than the adults, and the romance takes its time while taking its main couple seriously. Warm, witty and wise, Nora Goes Off Script tells the truth about all of love’s ups and downs: family love, friendship love, romantic love that comes to a wrenching end—and love that triumphs so beautifully, you’ll still be smiling over it long after you’ve put the book down.

Are you a sucker for a made-for-TV movie? Then you'll love As Seen on TV and Nora Goes Off Script.
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New York Times bestselling author Emily Henry (Beach Read, People We Meet on Vacation) returns with Book Lovers, in which an ambitious literary agent’s summer trip takes an unexpected turn when she’s stuck in a small town with her professional nemesis.

Nora Stephens is known for her cutthroat drive and the dogged devotion to her clients and their manuscripts. There’s really only one person who can get through her tough exterior, and that’s her younger sister, Libby. When Libby proposes a sisters’ trip to the small town of Sunshine Falls, North Carolina, Nora acquiesces. Once there, Nora is surprised to run into book editor Charlie Lastra, a man she’s deeply disliked ever since he ruthlessly turned down one of her books. Apparently, Charlie is a Sunshine Falls native, and he seems different than Nora remembers from their encounters in New York City. He’s not the abrupt editor that spurned her before; he’s actually charming, which Nora finds particularly infuriating.

Henry excels at writing introspective, heroine-focused romance, and she uses the character of Nora to dismantle the stereotypical “career woman” archetype: the cold, ambitious person who sacrifices relationships for the sake of her job and often stands in the way of a more conventionally “feminine” woman’s happiness. But in Book Lovers, Nora doesn’t have to change her driven nature to find a partner who appreciates her. While Charlie is a real softie at heart, he still celebrates Nora’s desire to excel. He understands her professional ambitions, because he harbors similar ones himself.

Emily Henry wants justice for the “Big City Woman.”

And while Sunshine Falls’ small-town charm does eventually win Nora over, the most significant result of her letting her guard down is not so much her relationship with Charlie so much as it’s the reaffirmation of her love for her sister. Nora deeply cares for Libby, and as the trip goes on, Nora begins to sense that something is amiss. Their sisterly affection is a sweet delight to witness, an unconditional and supportive love that Henry celebrates just as much as Nora’s romance with Charlie.

Is it possible for Henry to write a romance that doesn’t glitter with pithy banter or that isn’t filled with characters you want to root for? So far, the answer is no. As the title suggests, readers who love meta “books about books” will delight in the details of Nora’s and Charlie’s occupations and their passion for reading. But Book Lovers is also a wonderful examination of work-life balance, the intricacies of family relationships and the realization that you shouldn’t have to compromise yourself for love.

A delightful romance that both dismantles and celebrates the “career woman” archetype, Book Lovers cements Emily Henry's status as one of the best rom-com writers around.
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You know that part in a wedding ceremony when the officiant asks if there are any objections? In The Wedding Crasher, that’s when the fun—and the chaos—begins. While assisting her wedding-planner cousin Lina, Solange Perreira witnesses the bride in a moment of passion with a man who clearly isn’t the groom. Despite some natural trepidation, Solange feels compelled to stop this marital train wreck.

Dean Chapman, the jilted and romance-skeptical groom, is less heartbroken by his wedding going down in flames than he is worried about his professional prospects. He works at a conservative law firm that thinks only family men are partner material. To save face, he says that Solange ruined his wedding because they’re in love. Conveniently for him, Solange is willing to play along. A temporary boyfriend would come in handy to impress her visiting family, who won’t be satisfied with her single status regardless of her meaningful and innovative career in education.

The follow-up to Sosa’s breakout rom-com The Worst Best Man, The Wedding Crasher is a winner—thoroughly delightful, modern and fun. The romance naturally flows from the close proximity that’s part and parcel of a fake relationship. And while the scenario is fun, Sosa’s novel is also thoughtful and emotionally resonant, in large part due to its two distinctive main characters and their sparky chemistry. Dean and Solange aren’t looking for true love, and both are battling other people’s restrictive ideas of what a successful life looks like. And most importantly, they’re heavily influenced by their childhoods, both spent with single moms.

When Dean was a child, his mother moved them around from place to place, chasing love and finding bad men and disappointing relationships time and again. Those formative experiences led him to conclude that love is dangerous and destabilizing. He wants a stable home, marriage and a family yet avoids romance, preferring relationships that are structured like business arrangements.

Solange, on the other hand, grew up surrounded by the love of her supportive Brazilian American family. But she’s terrified of making an important life or career choice and having it turn out to be the wrong one, and equally terrified of staying or working in one place for years like her mother did. In contrast to Dean’s story, the origins of Solange’s angst aren’t quite as clear. Why does she think that her mother has made such an enormous mistake? While the emotions come through loud and clear, the reasoning behind them is frustratingly fuzzy.

Ultimately, however, this doesn’t preclude The Wedding Crasher from delivering what readers want most in a romantic comedy. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, tartly sweet and scorching hot—a delicate balance that only a writer of Sosa’s considerable talent can strike.

The follow-up to Mia Sosa’s breakout rom-com The Worst Best Man, The Wedding Crasher is a winner—thoroughly delightful, modern and fun.
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In The League of Gentlewomen Witches, India Holton returns to the Dangerous Damsels, her magical romp of a series complete with flying houses, adventuring pirates and tenacious witches. In this fast-paced enemies-to-lovers romance, a witch destined to take over a secret society teams up with a roguish pirate captain to recover a stolen amulet.

Charlotte Pettifer is a descendent of the famed Beryl Black, founder of the Wicken League, which fosters the talents of both young and experienced witches. It’s Charlotte’s birthright to lead the league, just like her ancestor, and she’s always thought that her destiny was also her dream job. But a treasure-hunting pirate makes her reconsider her future. When Beryl Black’s long-lost amulet resurfaces, Captain Alex O’Riley sets out to claim it—and so does Charlotte, by stowing away on Alex’s flying house.

India Holton reveals which fictional sorceresses she’d want in her own coven.

Close quarters turn Charlotte and Alex’s rapid-fire banter into a sort of foreplay, but despite their mutual antagonism, their romance skews more toward the sweet and heartwarming end of the spectrum. The dashing, daring Alex provides the perfect foil for buttoned-up and duty-bound Charlotte. It’s not exactly a grumpy-meets-sunshine pairing—more like a stuffy character falling for a free-spirited one. Alex oozes charm; he already made a grand first impression in Holton’s debut, The Wisteria Society for Lady Scoundrels, and he will further secure his spot in readers’ hearts here. They will immediately understand why Charlotte is envious of Alex’s freedom, especially as the weight of becoming the head of the Wicken League looms over her. His very existence and infectious spontaneity make Charlotte waver on her commitment to the league. Can she really live the life she wants while also fully committing to the role of leader?

Holton takes readers on a wild ride through a fun, limitless world, where frivolity and whimsy reign supreme and skilled swordwork and grand displays of magic abound. It’s all a hodgepodge of delightful silliness, with over-the-top action, exaggerated villainy and the fact that it’s possible to fall in love with your sworn enemy while recovering an ancient amulet. Think Mel Brooks meets The Princess Bride with a dash of Austen-esque comedy of manners. And then crank that all up to 11.

It’s impossible to know where the series will go next, but after finishing The League of Gentlewomen Witches, readers will be completely on board for more of Holton’s imaginative, rollicking romances.

Mel Brooks meets The Princess Bride, with a dash of Austen-esque comedy of manners, in India Holton’s imaginative, rollicking romance.
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★ Delilah Green Doesn’t Care

Children’s and young adult author Ashley Herring Blake makes her adult debut with Delilah Green Doesn’t Care, a queer small-town romance between—let’s be frank—two total babes who are most certainly worthy of their swoony whirlwind of a love story.

Delilah Green has no desire to return home to Bright Falls, Oregon; the tiny town is full of painful memories of a childhood spent feeling abandoned and isolated by her stepfamily. But when her estranged stepsister, Astrid, offers Delilah a large paycheck to photograph her wedding, Delilah finds herself back in Bright Falls for the first time in years. She hopes to get the trip over as soon as possible, but then she reunites with Claire Sutherland, a single mom who runs the local bookstore. Delilah recalls Claire being one of Astrid’s pretentious, “mean girl” friends, but she’s matured into a warm, kind and all-too-alluring woman. 

This tender story of growth and change is about becoming a person your younger self can be proud of. Delilah and Claire’s connection starts as a sexy sort of antagonism, an attraction they just can’t get out from under their skin, but it soon blossoms into a wild vulnerability neither expected. Blake’s impressive talent is on display on every page, especially when it comes to tracking the evolution of her central couple’s relationship. Romance readers are sure to welcome her (and Delilah) with open arms. 

Love at First Spite

An interior designer and an architect work together to build the perfect revenge in Anna E. Collins’ Love at First Spite.

Dani Porter’s already gotten mad about her cheating fiancé. Now, she wants to get even. When a vacant lot opens up next to her ex’s house, the place where they were supposed to live happily ever after, she quickly snatches it up. Her plan? Build an Airbnb right next door to block his beautiful view. To help with the project, she hires Wyatt Montego, a grumpy architect who works at her design firm. Their personalities immediately clash, but they soon find their groove within the large-scale project, moving from strangers to friends to something more. 

Given how much time and emotion she invested in her last relationship, only to then have her trust completely shattered, Dani is wary of love. And Wyatt is hiding his own sensitivities beneath his terse, stuffy exterior. The renovation and design elements provide the story’s foundation, giving Dani and Wyatt’s slow-burning chemistry plenty of opportunities to sizzle. This is a sweet story of healing after heartbreak, finding your person and debating the wrong and right ways to eat a sandwich.

If You Love Something

Some romances aren’t about finding something new, but rebuilding and reclaiming something you’ve lost. DeShawn and Malik Franklin haven’t seen each other in years and, as far as they know, they’ve been divorced for just as long. 

DeShawn is a successful executive chef in the Washington, D.C., area, but his comfortable lifestyle gets shaken up by one phone call from his dear grandmother. She reveals that she has cancer, she won’t be seeking treatment and she’s finalizing her will and plans to leave half of her estate to Malik, with whom she is still very close. But, there was a mix-up with DeShawn and Malik’s divorce paperwork: They’re still married.

When DeShawn’s uncle contests the will, DeShawn agrees to pretend that he and Malik are back together, hoping the ruse plus the fact that they are still technically married will make it easier for Malik to fight for his rightful share. But once they reunite, old problems and even older attractions emerge. 

Fans who love a bit of family drama in their romances, as well as some fake dating (between spouses!), will tear through Jayce Ellis’ endearing If You Love Something. DeShawn and Malik are clearly the right person for each other—they just met at the wrong time. Ellis shows how both men have worked on themselves and grown in order to become better romantic partners. If You Love Something will give you all the warm and fuzzy feelings.

Perfecting the rom-com is no easy feat. But these authors have cracked the code. Their satisfying romances boast heaping doses of lightness and humor, as well as some perfectly deployed and fan-friendly genre tropes.

With her latest contemporary romance, K.M. Jackson will win the hearts of any reader who loves Keanu Reeves (especially if they’re a Gen-Xer).

Bethany Lu Carlisle is a 40-something artist on the brink of a breakout—and a Keanu Reeves superfan. Her Keanu fixation is how Lu copes with life’s stresses: There’s a Keanu role out there to suit any mood, ready to provide a cathartic pick-me-up. So when news of the star’s forthcoming wedding hits the tabloids, Lu hits the road with the lofty goal of confessing her love to him.

Riding shotgun on her cross-country dash is BFF Truman “True” Erickson, a great guy and even better friend. A college economics professor, True recently wrote a popular book and is making the rounds on local talk shows, but his friendship with Lu keeps him humble and grounded. He’s loved Lu for years, but since he started out as her brother’s bestie, his affection has gone unnoticed. She’s his Keanu.  

Lu and True have the familiarity and intimacy of lifelong friends, but true to the friends-to-lovers trope, their communication stinks. They may have decades of life experience and disappointments behind them, but they are still their own worst enemies until they give in to the inevitable spark. Their journey is quirky and full of misadventures, while being poignant and heartfelt and full of emotion. 

How to Marry Keanu Reeves in 90 Days is charming even when it’s working through heavier emotional issues like grief and healing. Jackson brings a light-hearted and personal touch to the smallest of details, from the chapter titles echoing the names of Reeves’ movies to the pointed moments when True uses Lu’s full name to get her attention.

Is Keanu Reeves the perfect boyfriend? Answers may vary, but Jackson has definitely written an extremely enjoyable friends-to-lovers rom-com. How to Marry Keanu Reeves in 90 Days is a fun story with humor and heart, and a supremely satisfying conclusion.

Is Keanu Reeves the perfect boyfriend? Answers may vary, but Jackson has definitely written an extremely enjoyable friends-to-lovers rom-com.

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